Beer 511

Exploring the Craft Beer and Homebrew Scenes in Peru (Country Code 51) and the USA (Country Code 1)

Page 3 of 16

Admiral Maltings’ “Open Malthouse Day”

On February 10th, I attended Admiral Malting‘s “Open Malthouse Day”, hosted by Admiral’s founders, Ron Silberstein (of ThirstyBear Brewing) and Dave McLean (of Magnolia Brewing), as part of San Francisco Beer Week.

Guests were taken on thirty- to forty-minute behind-the-scenes of the malthouse, where we were able to learn about and observe the full production process. Both farmers and brewers were also on hand to experience the tour and to share their stories and speak about their experiences with Admiral’s malt.

Ron Silberstein, co-founder of Admiral Maltings, explains the malting process, accompanied by UC Davis biologist, Lynn Gallagher (at center), who developed the strain of barley used in Gallagher’s Best malt, and Bob Schaupp, a barley farmer, here enjoying his first glass of beer brewed from his crop.

 

Today, industrial malting is typically done in what is referred to as the “compartment process”, in which grain is passed through large, stainless-steel tanks able to accommodate tens, or even hundreds, of tons of grain. The grain is agitated with auger and aerated with large fans, as it passes through a series of alternating wet and dry stages, before being kilned.

Floor malting, on the other hand, is a more traditional, slower and more labor-intensive method, which is said to produce superior malt with deeper, richer flavor.  Upon opening in July of last year in an old dry-goods storage facility on the former Alameda Naval Air Station, Admiral Maltings became the first commercial floor malting facility in California since before Prohibition, and California’s first maltster with a California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) certification.

On my tour Silberstein explained that the barley spends 38-42 hrs steeping in the hydration tanks, then 4-5 days germinating on the malting floor, before being sent into the drying kiln for 24 hrs.

The malt is then passed through another machine which removes the rootlets before it is bagged.  A ton of rootlets are removed from each 10 ton batch of barley. With the addition to husks and other debris that is removed, there is a 20% loss, per weight, in the malting process, such that each 10-ton batch of barley results in 8 tons of finished malt. Currently, Admiral is approaching ten batches per month, but are looking into some material improvements which would enable them to attain fourteen batches per month.

With the Bay Area being a hub of the growing farm-to-table (or in this case, farm-to-glass) movement, the opportunity to avail themselves of locally-produced, small-batch, and certified organic, malt has generated a great deal of interest among local brewers.  Enough so that Admiral has been able to outfit it’s own taproom exclusively serving beers brewed using its malts.

The tour ended with tastings of Admiral malts and of beers made with those malts, guided by the brewers who made them.  On hand were brewers from Harmonic Brewing Co. (serving Prague Rock, made with Admiral Pils malt), Armistice Brewing Co. (serving Berthday Beer English Golden Ale, made with Feldblume malt), Social Kitchen & Brewery (serving California Grown Lager, made with Gallagher’s Best malt), and Independent Brewing Co. (serving Escaped the Island Blonde Ale, made with Maiden malt).

Eddie Gobbo, co-founder and head brewer of San Francisco’s Harmonic Brewing Company, talks bout his experience brewing with Admiral’s malts and leads a tasting of his Prague Rock Pilsner (brewed with Admiral Pils malt).

“Celebrator” turns 30!

Wow! The Celebrator is turning thirty!

Established in 1988 as the California Celebrator, and now officially titled Celebrator Beer News, it has indeed been a fixture of the California craft beer community.

I have personal fondness for the Celebrator going back to the mid- to late-1990s, when I started homebrewing.   The local homebrew supply store –the now long-defunct Fantastic Fermentations in Pacheco, CA– always had copies on hand.

In those days when the internet was barely getting going and websites were mostly hosted by universities and government institutions, the Celebrator was about the only way a regular guy like me could find out about and keep up with the craft beer scene, read interviews with brewers, or read features about breweries.

Much of it was almost incomprehensible to me –I had yet to have tried many of the styles mentioned and had little idea of where the breweries talked about were located– but I read every issue cover to cover and soaked it all in.

The folks at the Celebrator are marking this occasion with a 30th anniversary bash during SF Beer Week, on Feb, 17th.

Cheers to them! To the Celebrator! And, thank you!

SF Beer Week

It’s February, and February in the Bay Area means SF Beer Week!

SF Beer Week is California’s premier beer festival.  Over the course of a week it features hundreds of official beer-centered events (623 at last count for this year!) and dozens of unofficial and “warm up” events, throughout the nine Bay Area counties, and beyond.

This year’s Opening Gala –which officially opens Beer Week on February 9th– alone has more than 12o breweries confirmed to pour their best, most special, and rarest beers.

With this being it’s 10th anniversary, the organizers predict that this will be the most epic Beer Week thus far.

For full schedule of events click HERE or visit  sfbeerweek.org

On what is “craft” beer?

Watching Entre lúpulo y malta brought to mind the now-notorious video released last year by AbInBev in response to the Brewers Association’s introduction of its “Independent Craft Brewer” seal for use by breweries.

In that video the founders of breweries recently acquired by AbInBev’s The High End division –10 Barrel, Wicked Weed, Elysian, Four Peaks, and Devil’s Backbone—expound on why the label is a bad idea, even though they themselves are excluded from using it, and so on. Part of the way they do that is to argue that there is no difference between what they do and what BA member breweries do. While, from a technical standpoint, that may be true, they deliberately muddy the waters when it comes to what defines a “craft” brewer, and thus “craft” beer.

That they can do that raises the issue that, while for a long time what defined a craft brewery seemed pretty clear-cut, with an increasing number small breweries being acquired by brewing industry giants like AbInBev, Sapporo, Heineken, that definition is being blurred. (There is also the BA’s own continual expansion of the upper-bbl limit, but that is a matter for another time.)

In Peru there is the same sort of discussion going on as to what makes a beer a “craft” beer? But, there, the discussion is being approached from the other end.

Unlike the US, Peru has a living artisanal tradition and millions of people make their living from an artisanal economy, but until just a few years ago there was no history of small, independent brewers. Even those very few regional brands that existed tried to compete with the big brewers on their own terms, brewing the same kinds of beers, and as far as I can tell, all were either absorbed or went out of business. There was no equivalent to a Yakima Brewing, New Albion, or Anchor Brewing, to serve as a reference point.

So, Peruvian consumers, with no experience of small-batch, locally-produced beer, and no experience of beer styles other than big boy’s pilsners, are encountering an as yet small, and fairly localized (to Lima), but booming craft beer industry without a reference to what is a craft beer. But, they are trying to figure it out.

In so doing, many look to what they have in their hand: What makes this beer a craft beer and not that one? And, that’s where things get tricky.

As Peruvian craft brewers crank out a variety of very tasty ales –stouts, porters, weizens, fruited beers, etc.—consumers sometimes think that a craft beers is defined by “being in a different style” or by simply having “more flavor” than Backus & Johnston’s mass-produced lagers.

Another stumbling block is in the language itself. In Spanish, “artisanal” and “craft” are both expressed by the same word: artesanal. Now, because of Peru’s living artisan economy, everyone pretty much has an idea of what artesanal means. And, of course, what it means in most instances is things made at home, or in small home-based workshops, by hand or with minimal technology, without the refinements and standardization available to industrial producers.

Thus, I’ve had people in Lima ask me whether filtering would take away a beer’s artisanal quality. The working supposition being that an craft/artisanal product is less “finished” than an industrial one.

Naturally, there are those who argue –and with whom I agree—that what makes a beer “artesanal” or not is not the beer itself, but the brewer. However, even on that point, there is confusion. In discussions online with Peruvian homebrewers, some have expressed that they consider themselves cerveceros artesanales because their beer is home-made.

The lack of clarity on this point shows up in Entre lúpulo y malta, where the first cervecero artesanal that is presented is Christian Zapata, a dedicated homebrewer and president of the Peruvian homebrewers’ association, Asociación de Cerveceros Caseros del Perú (ACECAS).

Does it matter? Probably not that much. Not yet at any rate, while the Peruvian craft beer market is still quite small (in 2016 production was only 10k hectoliters, or 6.3k bbl), but as it expands and legislation and taxation begins to catch up and the Backus & Johnston conglomerate (itself owned by AbInBev) begins to feel threatened, a working definition of craft beer could well become quite important.

As it is in the US.

Documentary on Peruvian Craft Brewers

(Sorry about the poor quality of the English-language captioning.)

Page 3 of 16

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén